Standardization News

Helping Our Brand Work Better

By: 
Brian Meincke and Jeffrey Grove

ASTM's Brian Meincke and Jeffrey Grove explain how and why we have focused on telling a stronger story in a changing world.

"Your brand is what people say about you when you're not in the room," says Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos. This quote from a company with a brand value of $45.7 billion dispels the myth that brand is only about your logo. So, if it's not all about logos, what is it about and why is it so important for an organization like ASTM International?

Over the past 18 months we have increasingly recognized that our brand is all about our reputation - what everyone who experiences us as an organization thinks and feels about us. The big things like the quality of our services or products, or the expertise of our members and staff are important. But so are the small things, like how we answer the phone or how our people sign an email.

Branding is all about how a brand is managed and how clearly an organization is able to tell its story. The strong businesses we all know - Apple, Boeing, Coca Cola - know their brands are a key business asset and put huge effort into managing and enhancing them.

As they considered ASTM's future business strategy, our senior management team recognized that brand was also critically important for us as an organization where reputation underpins every aspect of our work. Detailed discussions with people across ASTM and with our members and customers around the world confirmed that we already had a strong brand - well known in the standards sector and respected globally. However, there was also a clear sense that the ASTM brand and our branding needed to evolve.

Here's why:

1. ASTM now offers a range of services that go well beyond issuing standards. Training, proficiency testing, certification and the new portal service, ASTM CompassR, significantly enhance what we are able to offer. Communicating clearly and powerfully the benefits of these services is important so that everyone knows what is available and why it matters to them and the way they do business. Facilitating this through stronger and more coherent communications strengthens ASTM in a world where the way our stakeholders and customers obtain and use information is rapidly changing.

2. ASTM is well known for quality and consistency. While individual communications were strong, we wanted to apply a unified approach to everything we produce. From books and brochures to emails and websites - the goal is for each item to reinforce the next, making our brand stronger and clearer for all our audiences. In turn, our aim was to enhance our established reputation for promoting world-class standards and consistent quality.

3. Finally, ASTM operates in an increasingly globalized world. Other players in the international standards sector take their brands and communications very seriously. A flexible communications platform means that ASTM can continue to set the agenda with strong and coherent communications across all channels.

Thinking Systematically

October saw the launch of ASTM's new brand identity. This means that we now have a well thought-through system that clearly reflects who we are, why we are distinctive and what benefits we can offer. It means we are coherent and relevant in what we say, how we say it and how we deliver it to those listening. This means that when any one of our audiences - members, customers, employees, partners, media - come into contact with ASTM, they get what they need in the way that they need it.

It has been a very thorough process. We've consulted with lots of people within the organization - not just the board and senior staff - and also asked for opinions from ASTM customers and members around the world. It has been a big effort, but we think the time taken to really understand the organization and its needs has ensured that we've produced something that will really resonate with audiences. Just as importantly, we thought about long-term needs, not just short-term impact, so the system we've created should have the flexibility and space to grow that will allow it to serve ASTM well into the future.

We've been assisted throughout by an outstanding London-based brand agency, OPX. Their expertise working with other global organizations was critical in helping us ensure we embraced best practices and told our story in a way that's clear, compelling and relevant.

The Foundations

There are three things about the branding that we'd particularly like to point out.

First is that everything links back to our new brand proposition: "Helping our world work better." This statement articulates as succinctly as possible why ASTM exists and what our primary ambition is. It is true to the spirit of how we engage with our stakeholders to help them solve problems through an unrivaled collaborative approach, and it emphasizes our international reach. Most importantly it reminds everyone of our central desire to continuously improve the products and services we all use every day.

The second is the square, which is used in a range of different ways as the central graphic element across all of our visual communications. It reflects an ordered, systematic way of looking at the world that's backed by good science, good engineering and good judgment. It also suggests modularity and flexibility - both qualities that reflect how we work and our expanding range of services and products. In time, the square should become a recognizable and distinctive motif, signaling our brand presence beyond just our logo.

Which brings us to the final element. Having said that this wasn't about the logo, we asked OPX to refine and develop the mark that has served ASTM well for over 100 years. The approach was similar to that adopted by the likes of Ford or Coca Cola - gentle evolution so that it is a little less angular and a little more contemporary - communicating progress but building on our solid and enduring values. Practically, the changes have made our logo more usable across a range of media, notably digital platforms like smartphones and tablets. Viewing trends show that we will be consuming brands digitally more and more in the future, and these changes put ASTM in a strong position to not only adapt, but to lead.

Consensus and Collaboration

All told it has been an exciting and interesting journey. We've enjoyed tremendous support from colleagues across ASTM's marketing, digital and corporate communications operations, with a special mention going to both Barbara Schindler, director of corporate communications, and Julie Sabo, director of graphic design, digital output and production services, in particular.

The input from OPX has also been key, based on a genuinely collaborative approach and engagement. And in the end, that's the most important thing of all. Strong branding comes from reflecting and enhancing the best of what any organization has to offer. It's our belief that this branding initiative truly reflects the collaborative spirit that makes ASTM International such an innovative and enduring organization, one that we are proud to be part of.

OPX is a London-based brand and digital agency who specialize in brand development for business organizations around the world.

Brian Meincke is ASTM's assistant vice president, business development. Jeffrey Grove is ASTM's vice president, global policy and industry affairs.

Issue Month: 
November/December
Issue Year: 
2014